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They came in their kampung best – sarong, saree and slippers and were treated to an evening of Ronggeng, ‘YMCA’ and…Shadow Budget? Yes, crazy as it sounds all three were rolled into one fateful night last Saturday at the Fort Canning Centre.
That’s where the Singapore Democrats held our annual dinner. Themed ‘Kampung Night’, the event recreated the spirit (or at least tried to) of a bygone era when Singaporeans of all backgrounds came together to celebrate what was quintessentially Singaporean.
Where else can you find this unique blend of a Malay village, with Chinese ladies wearing cheongsam, and youngsters singing the Beatles?
It was an evening when friends and members of the SDP let their hair down to have some fun in the midst of a frenetic programme of election preparations.
It started with the fomalities of the party chairman Gandhi Ambalam announcing the entry of former political prisoners Mr Michael Fernandez and Mr Vincent Cheng into the SDP. The two political icons were detained without trial: Mr Fernandez for nine years amd Mr Cheng for three.
Both men are staunch advocates for the rights of workers in Singapore and it was for this reason that the PAP found them such threats that they had to be detained under the Internal Security Act.
What is important is that the men are again willing to lead the fight for the working poor who continue to exploited by the Government.
The Singapore Democrats are exceedingly proud that they have joined us and chosen the party as their political home. They stand tall among us.
Dr Chee Soon Juan then took to the podium to give the party’s address. He reminded the audience that the PAP has been assuming the role of political master over the people and that this arrangement had to change and called on the people to back the SDP to bring about urgent reform needed for Singapore’s progress.
Dr Vincent Wijeysingha came on next to present an analysis of the Government’s Budget and compared it to our Shadow Budget (see here). He ended his speech with an impassioned call to Singaporeans to reject the PAP’s Budget: “You the people of Singapore must send a strong message to the PAP come polling day: We disagree with your policy – this Budget is no good.”
After the serious talk, it was time to satisfy the other needs. Dinner of local fare was served. And as the guests tucked in, they were entertained by Kraton, a local band led by our very own Young Democrats Vice-President Mr Jufri Salim. The group belted out a series of oldies bringing brought back memories of yesteryears.
But the spotlight was on our very own diva Ms Suraya. Resplendently dressed in a traditional Malay ceremonial outfit, Suraya warmed many-a-heart when she crooned folk songs and ballads.
A few in the audience, including Dr Wong Wee Nam, felt compelled to join Ms Suraya in a dance as serenaded the crowd with Burong Kaka Tua and Teresa Teng’s 甜蜜蜜.
Resident guitarist Mr John Law came on next and continued the oldies theme with an instrumental of The Shadows, a band that had played with British pop star Cliff Richard.
Our multi-talented party continued to keep the audience enthralled through emcees Mr Jag Singh and Ms Pam Tan. At the top of his game, Jag was the live-wire who drove the night’s programme by keeping everyone in stitches with his comedic routine.
He poked fun at everyone and got them on stage to sing, dance and, for a few brief minutes, abandon their usual serious selves in exchange for some much needed laughter.
Dr and Mrs Chee were two such victims when they were targeted to perform the Ronggeng, a simple Malay two-step, with Jufri and Suraya as coaches. The entire audience was then roped in to do the Bhangra Dance, an Indian routine which Jag made everyone perform to a high-octane, techno piece. It brought the house down.
Then came the moment that everyone was trying to avoid – the train dance. Jag came off the stage with Pam in tow and started to jiggle and hop to Limbo Rock.
He stopped at the tables and somehow managed to get the audience to form a jiggling and hopping line behind him. By the time the piece switched to the ‘YMCA’ almost everyone were up from their seats and joining in the line as it snaked through the entire room.
The programme culminated in the Best Dress Awards as participants were given prizes for their best kampung wear.
And as everyone said their goodbyes, we realised that we had achieved another first: Mixing politics with cheesy Village People music. No matter, we had fun. And we want to thank those of you who came for being such good sports, we hope you had as much fun as we had in bringing the evening to you.
Yes, it was a night when we harked back to the days when life was less complicated and certainly one when we felt a lot more Singaporean.
For more photos, go to our Gallery section.